How to prepare for multi-day running adventures

Aside from the odd commute, using running as a means of transport isn’t the norm for most. Running might be part of your weekly push towards fitness, there’s a race in sight or a time you want to run, but mapping a route and setting out with an end destination in mind isn’t perhaps your main focus. Maybe it should be.

Following three days of running covering the 100 miles of the South Downs way, Jon Brombley explains below as to why he set himself this challenge and offers his learnings to those considering any type of running adventure.


Sometimes it's nice to push your running in a slightly different direction, away from the grind of the road and the usual training/race cycles. I thought why not use all that fitness to go on a little adventure in the hills instead? It's really not that difficult to plan one. Here’s what I did.

1. Pick a route

National Trails are a great place to start. They're signposted for those with limited navigating experience and because they're walked so frequently there's a wealth of information on the logistics.

We chose the South Downs Way. It's pretty much home turf for me. I've walked all of it, run most sections of it and because of a failed attempt at it when I was 16 (I phoned my Dad after one afternoon to come pick me up), I have a psychological need to continue beating it. 

 

2. Pick a buddy  

They need to be the kind of person who when, in the pissing rain, you manage to time your arrival at the exact point that both your accommodation and the only pub in the village are shut, they are happy to make themselves at a home in a bus shelter for an hour or two. 

Fortunately, I have Leo [Leo is also an RW Pacer] . We've run together a lot. He understands what situations call for Jimmy Eat World, and which require Katy Perry. He also has a strong 'ultra-shuffle' which puts my 'I-try-not-to-run-more-than-half-marathons hobble' to shame.

 

3. Finalise the details

We chose to break the 100 miles into 3 days, but you could easily break it down into shorter distances. With a rough distance calculation in hand, we booked all of our B&B's and even went as far as making dinner reservations in the local pubs.

Water points are pretty accessible on the SDW, but given we'd be predominantly away from civilisation, we scoped out where we'd get food at the start of each day - just enough to get us through. We used a mix of maps and online sources and (being the Project Management nerd I am) pulled it all into one handy Google doc.

In terms of kit list, there's usually a trade-off between comfort and weight. For example, I packed clean kit for every day (especially as we knew it might rain), but decided against taking any 'civvies' and ate dinner in running kit. Your experience and your inclination for personal hygiene can help make that decision for you.

 

4. Enjoy it

Stop for ice creams, take photos, stand there and soak up the incredible scenery. There really is no need to rush. And frankly it's better to take your mind off the fact that your legs really hurt. (Actually, not just your legs, your shoulders too. Oh, and your back. And something in your foot...) 

Enjoy those well-earned chips and a cold beer at the end of the day. Unless you're one of those A-types (in which case, you'll probably just run it in a day anyway) then remind yourself this is meant to be fun. There's no need for heroes.

I can also thoroughly recommend bringing in fresh enthusiasm when things get tough. Four of our friends joined us for the final day of our trip, and what felt like an insurmountable slog degenerated into terrible jokes and ridiculous one-upmanship. Essentially, just a bunch of mates messing about on the hills in the sunshine. Pretty much my favourite way to spend a day.

 

5. Bask in the glow

Of course there are the Insta-likes, disbelieving comments from your colleagues and the glory sitting on the top of most the Strava tables for a week (top tip: finish on a Sunday to maximise this impact), but it's much more than that.

Out on the SDW I found a new respect for those that tackle those longer distances and I had to dig way deeper than I would care to admit to get through. 10 miles from the end of day 2, thinking of how far we still had to go the next day very nearly had me call my Dad again (a stern talking to from Leo and an emergency blast of 'Roar' were both required). 

But tackling adversity makes it all the sweeter. I'll always remember vividly the joy as Eastbourne came into view over the final crest and the combination of disbelief, pride and relief as we touched the signpost that marked the end of 100 miles.

Because once the pain subsides, and you start walking a bit more normally, it's time to start thinking about the next one.

Check out Jon and Leo's adventure on Strava. 

Day. 1
Day. 2
Day. 3